The United States Supreme Court let stand a ruling awarding Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) clients Bashe Yousuf, Aziz Deria, Buralle Mahamoud, and Ahmed Gulaid $21 million in compensatory and punitive damages for torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights abuses committed by former Somali Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Mohamed Ali Samantar.
“I truly rejoice to know that Samantar cannot escape the pronouncement of the court of law,” said CJA client Aziz Deria. “My late father Mohamed Iid, my younger brother Mustafa, and my cousin Yusuf were pulled from our family’s home and murdered under General Samantar’s orders just because of their clan. The Supreme Court’s decision today gives me hope that justice for all Somalis is possible.”
In 2012, Samantar accepted liability and responsibility for damages for crimes committed against the civilian population of Somalia during the brutal Siad Barré regime, the military dictatorship that ruled that country from 1969 to 1991. After the collapse of the Siad Barré dictatorship, Samantar fled Somalia and ultimately settled in Fairfax, Virginia where he has lived openly for the past 18 years.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled in favor of CJA’s clients after attorneys from CJA and pro bono co-counsel Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP presented evidence demonstrating the grievous injuries Samantar wrought and the malicious intent with which he committed these crimes. Despite his acceptance of liability, Samantar continued to assert immunity and for a third time petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case, claiming immunity for acts he says were taken in his official capacity. Today’s Supreme Court ruling follows closely on the heels of an affirmation by the U.S. State Department that the Somali Federal Government does not seek immunity for Samantar.
“Thousands of Somalis suffered under the Siad Barré regime and in the years since its collapse,” said CJA Legal Director Kathy Roberts, “The decision of the Somali Federal Government not to seek immunity for Samantar, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of Samantar’s final appeal, together send a strong message that the perpetrators of such atrocities will not be cloaked with impunity.”
CJA’s case marks the first time that any Somali government official has been held accountable for the atrocities perpetrated under the Siad Barré regime, and the Supreme Court’s most recent decision draws to an end an 11-year quest in U.S. courts for justice for those harmed by General Samantar and soldiers under his command. The case was filed by CJA in 2004 and litigated by CJA and pro bono co-counsel Akin Gump.
About the Center for Justice and Accountability
CJA is a San Francisco-based human rights organization dedicated to deterring torture and other severe human rights abuses around the world and advancing the rights of survivors to seek truth, justice and redress. CJA uses litigation to hold perpetrators individually accountable for human rights abuses, develop human rights law, and advance the rule of law in countries transitioning from periods of abuse. www.cja.org
About Akin Gump
Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a leading international law firm, numbers more than 900 lawyers in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In 2014, Akin Gump was named for the second consecutive year as one of the nation’s top pro bono practices by Law360. www.akingump.com